No career plan works well without a strong, pre-planned structure to follow–and that goes for your resume as well.
With the difficulties of a tough job market and ever-increasing competition, standing out from the crowd has become more critical than ever before.
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If we’re looking to make a good impression on a company, the very first thing a recruiter will notice is the quality of our resumes. While flashy text and design can help a resume stand out, it’s much more important to polish the general flow and layout of our career details.
This is where a resume outline comes in.
What Is A Resume Outline?
In simple terms, a resume outline is a blueprint for what a completed resume will look like. It helps by providing a starting point to the resume and giving you a bird ’s-eye view of your career summary.
This allows you to succinctly and powerfully express your record of qualifications, experience, and relevant skills to a hiring manager. It also allows you to avoid errors and easily modulate the length of your resume.
“A resume outline, also known as a master resume, is a powerful guiding document for creating a winning resume. An outline helps you to include all the relevant information needed to show your qualification and fitness for a particular job. It allows you to plan, organize, and present your resume to make a powerful impression”, says Paul French, Managing Director of Intrinsic Search – a recruiter with more than 25 years of experience.
Once you have a basic resume outline in place, you can play around with fonts, subsections, and visual content to highlight your strengths as a professional.
Steps to Follow While Creating A Resume Outline
Writing a resume without any prior preparation will leave you feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed – whether you’re a fresher or an experienced professional, putting several months and years of data on a couple of pages can be quite the task.
Fortunately, we’ve got a quick list of steps that will make the process much easier:
1. Consider The Purpose Of Your Resume
Suppose you look at job recruiters’ posts on websites such as Indeed, LinkedIn, and other work portals. In that case, you’ll notice that each recruiter will tailor their job listings depending on the industry, the amount of experience they’d like in a candidate, and the job itself.
Similarly, while job hunting, you’d benefit from crafting a resume that is razor-focused and reads with purpose. Make sure that you know what kind of industry and profile you’re aiming for. This will help you stay relevant and engaging to the companies and recruiters you want to impress.
You can choose to explicitly state the purpose of your resume to recruiters as well–this will save you time in case you’re particularly discerning about future work and would only like specific roles.
2. Visualize Your Overall Format
Now that you’ve got some direction, it’s time to put things in order – literally.
Chris Leitch, who is the Editor-in-Chief at CareerAddict, advises – “While you may be tempted to just start writing your résumé and hope for the best, it’s a good idea to first plan out its structure. This helps you identify what sections you’ll need and what information you’ll communicate in those sections, as well as visualize your résumé’s overall look and feel.”
“You want to create a pleasant reading experience for hiring managers, and you can achieve this through strategic formatting. Think: using bulleted lists to emphasize your achievements, adding ample white space between sections, and sticking to two font styles at most. Remember: your résumé’s design is just as important as the information it presents.”
Most people experience career growth in a steady upward line–gradually building up experience and accreditations as they move further into their lines of work. If your career looks like this, you’ll probably benefit by formatting your resume in chronological order.
If your career follows a non-linear path, things are a bit different. Perhaps you’ve changed disciplines, pursued a parallel degree, or changed industries altogether. In this case, maybe you’d benefit from listing your details by skill type, taking advantage of your career versatility.
3. Get The Basics Down
According to the Department of Labor Statistics of the United States, it’s likely that whatever job you’re looking for will fit into one of 821 broadly defined roles.
That’s a lot of variables between jobs, and can feel overwhelming to someone looking to get hired. Despite this, every single position on the planet will have a few parts in common–and this is what you should address first when making a resume outline.
Start by listing down the basics–this means your qualifications, work experience, skills, volunteer experience, and achievements or awards. At a glance, these are what will differentiate you from other applicants, so get these out of the way first.
4. Add In Contact Details
You could have the most glowing resume possible, but it wouldn’t count for anything if recruiters can’t get a hold of you. Make sure to create a section for your first and last name, phone number, address, work title, and email details.
It’s also ideal to include a link to your portfolio if you have one online. Depending on the industry, you may also want to include social media links.
5. Expand On Your Education Details
Generally speaking, companies will expect formal education in the specific fields that they’re hiring in. However, depending on your line of work and how recent the education is, this can be of varying importance.
At the bare minimum, you will want to include basic graduation information such as your major and minors, completion date, and your institute’s name. You can further expand with GPA scores, awards, and any additional responsibilities you held during your time as a student.
If you’re currently a student, you can also include your expected graduation date.
6. Expand On Your Career Experience
In most cases, this section will draw the most attention and scrutiny from employers, so don’t be afraid to go into detail here.
Begin with your most recent position on top, and go down towards your oldest one in gradual order. You’ll want to elaborate on:
- Everyday work responsibilities.
- Major projects seen to completion.
- Liaisons and business contacts developed.
- Awards and accolades.
- Performance metrics that highlight your abilities.
7. Highlight Any Career Skills
Most companies are looking for individuals who take the time and effort to develop multiple skills, not necessarily ones that directly help you with your job. They can prove that you’re capable and invested in self-development–traits that matter a lot during hiring processes.
Lead with industry-relevant skills first and secondary skills next. If you’re applying to a financial firm, data entry skills will matter–but your graphic design chops may take a back seat.
However, as Dimitris Tsapis suggests “It’s all about understanding that the goal of a resume is to get to the next step – the Interview. Usually, no one will hire somebody only by reading their resume. So don’t overcomplicate things, prove that you are knowledgeable about what you do; showcase prior relevant experience and achievements; write in an enthusiastic but self-respectful manner; show that you are the one they are looking for!” Dimitris is Head of HR at PlanM8.
8. Customize Your Subsections
Several important details that your hiring manager may want to know don’t fit neatly into any of the boxes we’ve seen above–so don’t hesitate to make your own.
This is where you’ll add hobbies, volunteer work, community responsibilities, and interesting trivia about yourself. Just make sure not to go overboard.
Example Resume Outline – Journalist Role
Here’s a basic example of a resume outline for a copywriter.
- Full given name
- Phone number
- Email address
- Link to your blog
- Link to your online portfolio with writing samples
- Link to your active public social media
- Brief sentences highlighting your general work role and what you’re looking to be hired for.
- Experience 1 (Most Recent) – Start & End Date
- Company name, City and State
- Job Responsibilities
- Special Projects
- Experience 2 – Start & End Date
- Company name, City and State
- Job Responsibilities
- Special Projects
- Degree – Commencement & Graduation Date
- Concentration/ minor
- Skill 1
- Skill 2
- Skill 3
- Skill 4
Applying for new jobs can be hard work.
Whether it’s leaving your old workplace or hunting down the perfect listing, things don’t need to be more challenging than they already are. Keeping yourself organized through a resume outline can make that little extra difference between a hiring manager passing over your file or taking it as a serious prospect.
We hope this guide has been helpful and wish you the best for your job hunt!